Agency:          Credit Counselling Service of Sault Ste. Marie & District

Topic:              Tips for Christmas Spending

Phone:             705-254-1424

Date:               December 5, 2001


Finding Your Balance This Christmas

The coming holiday season can be a time of joy despite recent troubles on the world stage and in our economy.  This year, as we contemplate the true meaning of the season, we should maintain cautious optimism in our hearts and in our spending habits.  The following steps can help you keep a sense of balance over both the holidays and your pocketbook.

Moderation in shaky times is key.  Fear and stress can provoke a mixed reaction to holiday spending.  Some may turn into overzealous reformed Scrooges and  blow their budget on extravagant entertaining and gift-giving they can’t afford.  Others may be so anxious about the future, they’ll turn into the grumpy Grinch, refusing to spend any time or money on the spirit of the season.  Both extremes can backfire.  A slowed economy is often boosted by consumer spending, especially during this time of year, but you need to plan your budget carefully for the holidays.

Make a contract with yourself.  Write down the maximum amount you can afford to spend for the holidays and resolve to stick to it.  Break down the amount and set a cap on what you can spend in the following categories: gifts, entertaining, and miscellaneous items (such as travel, clothing or decorating).  Add some cushion to your budget to cover unexpected or hidden costs.  Decide if you are going to pay cash or credit before you shop and keep track of your purchases and receipts.  Don’t be tempted to spend beyond your means. 

Pare down your expenses.  If you can’t travel to be with the ones you love, send a video or a letter, this can mean a lot and costs so little.  Cull your gift list and suggest that family members exchange names rather than buying for everyone.  Invoke a “make it or bake it” rule for gift giving, adults can appreciate such gifts.  Although kids may still need the thrill of purchased gifts, they can help keep family’s costs down by giving homemade gifts such as crafts, homemade CD’s, or “coupons” offering to complete a special chore.  If time and money are at a premium over the holidays,  forego fancy dinner parties and organize a pot luck.  Recycle  decorations - remember they sit dormant in a box 11 months out of the year and new decorations can be picked up for a bargain after boxing day. 

Talk about expectations.  If you have kids (young or grown), discuss what’s happening in the world and how moderation and charity can be applied.   Ask them for suggestions on how this holiday season can be made more meaningful and affordable for the family.  If you or loved ones have been directly hit by the economic downturn, think about exchanging gifts of time such as babysitting, running errands or housework.  Don’t let limited funds discourage you.   It is in times of hardship that we need to remind ourselves of the blessings we have overlooked in our lives.  Think back to your childhood and you’ll find that memories of toys and trinkets are hazy, but times shared with loves ones much will be much more vivid. 

A smile costs nothing but can be priceless.  The spirit of peace and hope has remained triumphant for centuries  and will renew itself again this holiday season.  We wish you happy holidays and a prosperous new year on behalf of Credit Counselling Service of Sault Ste. Marie.



“Helping you manage your debt” is a series of articles provided by member agencies of the Ontario Association of Credit Counselling Services.  All member agencies provide a range of no or low cost services to help people solve their financial problems and improve their consumer and money management skills. For more information about credit counselling services in Sault Ste. Marie, please contact Credit Counselling Services of Sault Ste. Marie & District, 298 Queen Street East, Suite 2, Sault Ste. Marie, ON, P6A 1Y7 or visit our website at